Offense Heats Up; Kansas Tops Texas, 5-2
AUSTIN, Texas – Kansas’ offense came out of the gate swinging and recorded five of its 10 hits in the opening two frames as the Jayhawks evened the series with a 5-2 victory over Texas on Saturday afternoon at McCombs Field.
The win snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Longhorns and is the first victory in Austin for KU (30-20, 4-10 Big 12) since 2007. It also marked the 30th win of the season and is the fourth-straight year that the Jayhawks have reached the 30-win mark.
“We’ve had a bad streak here and it’s because we haven’t been able to put it all together,” said head coach Megan Smith. “We’ve had great pitching performances from Pille and Kessler, but haven’t hit or good hitting performances and haven’t pitched as well. Today, it was exciting to see it all come together.”
Kansas posted a pair of runs in the first two innings to take an early lead. When a Jayhawk runner crosses home plate first, KU has a 26-5 advantage. The Jayhawks outhit the Longhorns, 10-7, and are 27-5 when posting more hits than their opponents.
“The offense did a good job following the game plan and adjusting after last night,” Smith added. “Today, they were locked in offensively and came out hot early.”
Freshman Lily Behrmann got the offense rolling in the opening frame with a single to left field. Shortstop Chaley Brickey recorded her 39th walk of the season to give Kansas two runners, who moved into scoring position on a ground out. Junior Chanin Naudin drove in the first run with a single through the left side, while freshman Harli Ridling added another run with an RBI single to left field as the Jayhawks took a 2-0 lead into the bottom half of the inning.
In her 25th appearance of the season, junior hurler Alicia Pille began the game with a 1-2-3 first inning after sitting the Longhorns batters down in order with a pair of ground outs and a fly out. She tossed two scoreless innings before the Longhorns were able to plate a run.
Freshman Taylor Dodson, who reentered the Jayhawks’ lineup five games ago, extended Kansas’ lead to 3-0 with her first career home run. Her long ball over the left field fence is the 27th home run of 2014 for KU and chased out Texas’ starter Tiarra Davis, who threw a shutout in the first game of the series. The inning continued with Brickey bringing home Taylor McElhaney with a single to left centerfield off the Longhorns reliever Gabby Smith as Kansas’ lead grew to 4-0.
“I’m really proud of Taylor (Dodson),” said Smith. “She struggled a little this year. She has worked hard in practice and won her starting spot back. It’s nice to see her have that success in a live at-bat because she has been working so hard at practice.”
Pille worked her way out of a jam in the bottom of the second.
The Longhorns recorded their first hit of the day and Pille gave up a walk giving Texas two runners on base with two outs. After a quick visit to the circle from pitching coach Abbie Sims, Pille recorded a ground out via second base to retire the side without any harm.
Texas got on the board by scoring a run in the third inning on a fielder’s choice. Smith kept the rally going for UT and drove in another run with a single to centerfield. The Longhorns scored two runs on three hits as Kansas took a 4-2 advantage into the fourth inning.
Pille threw three innings and left with a no decision, while striking out one and allowing four hits. Sophomore Kelsey Kessler took over for Pille in the fourth inning. Kessler hurled four scoreless innings of relief and earned her 18th victory in the circle. She struck out three and limited Texas to three hits.
“They were both great,” Smith said. “(Alicia) Pille was great in her start and she did a really good job, especially with the lead and shutting Texas down for a few innings. I was really pleased with her performance. (Kelsey) Kessler was phenomenal today. We had the lead and she came out with confidence going right at the batters. I’m really proud of both them working together.”
The Jayhawks took advantage of an error, which put two runners in scoring position with two outs in the top of the sixth. Naudin loaded the bases after drawing an intentional walk. Ridling reached on a fielder’s choice and plating another KU run. Kansas headed into the bottom half of the sixth with a 5-2 lead.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Longhorns opened the frame with back-to-back base hits. A ground out advanced the runners to scoring position with two outs. Kessler put an end to Texas’ comeback and clinched the win, 5-2.
Davis gave up four hits and three runs in one inning of work before Smith took over in the circle. Davis dropped to 16-11 on the season with the loss. Smith tossed five innings and gave up five hits and one earned run.
The Jayhawks conclude their three-game Big 12 series at Texas on Sunday, May 4 at McCombs Field. First pitch for the final game of the series is set for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network.
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